A year with iPads

When our teachers were handed iPads in September 2011 they wondered what was going on and particularly what they were meant to do with them. Apart from the small handful who had been recruited into the trial during the summer term 2011, no one had any experience of teaching with tablets and many of our staff didn’t even have smart phones so even the whole touch interface was a new experience.

As a school with talented and motivated students we didn’t NEED iPads, we had no problems to fix, but we needed to find out what iPads could do in a school like ours.

It took a lot of effort but, by the summer term 2012 the iPad bookings were unmanageable; we were having to turn down more staff requests than we could say yes to. The breadth and scope of their usage has been impressive and undoubtedly affected what is happening in our classrooms.

In the intervening time, the view of iPads in the wider educational world had also moved on considerably. When our trial started there was relatively little anecdotal evidence about iPads in education,especially in the UK, but, visitors to our school by summer term 2012 arrived already having an impressive understanding about what effect iPads are having in classrooms and already even knowing detail such as which apps they want to put onto the iPad they are planning to buy.

All full time teaching staff received an iPad and we had two class sets which we initially carried and then rolled around the school in trolleys, despite the @ipadtrolleylady handle, we all had to do a lot more than just get the iPads to the classrooms. We had a total of 150 iPads in school.

Damage and breakages. Would you believe that most of our breakages and damage have been from staff! There were a couple of iPads that were accidentally dropped by students and one cracked screen that came back from a science lesson. When we got our iPads there weren’t a great deal of options for cases, now there are many more protective options. We got the Apple Smartcovers and basically, they don’t protect the corners and because, being magnetic, they can actually slide off, they are pretty useless at protecting the iPads (we have now gone for Maroo brand for the 1:1 roll out). There is no doubt that the corners are the weak point.

Initially the iPads only had Pages, Numbers and Keynote, iMovie and Garageband on them. Staff booked them out for internet research as they were quicker to start up than laptops and simpler than moving a class to the ICT rooms. Students had differing views on typing on the virtual on-screen keyboard and generally the older students were more cynical (habituated?) although we were keen at all times to encourage and questioning and open view of the benefits of the iPads in lessons.

I had to purchase and put my own creative apps on the iPads and demonstrate their potency for learning in our Junior School in order to then be able to transfer this to the more subject focussed environment of the Senior School. This was essentially a collaboration between me and a very enthusiastic iPad novice and them later working closely with senior school teachers who I had already started working with on more conventional topics. Soon after we were lucky enough to have about 30 staff have a day’s worth of training with the wonderful Neil Emery. This outside input consolidated what we had been doing and ensured that everyone had a view that the iPads were not something unique to us but the wider educational community too.

There is no doubt that the major factor in the success of our 1 year trial was down to the relationships I developed with the teaching staff; what began slowly became wonderful exploratory collaborative journey. We have made great progress and I want to thank you all!

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